Smoke & Mirrors

by Steve

Published 20 August 2019

Back in the good old 1990s there was a TV programme called Stars In Their Eyes. This popular TV programme gave contestants the opportunity to live out their dream and become their favourite celebrity for the night. The well-known catchphrase was “tonight Matthew I am going to be…..” and then they would announce their hero’s name, leave the stage as they were and return through as dry smoke door as Elvis or Adam Ant or Freddie Mercury. It was fun and nobody took it too seriously. And nobody ever expected the contestant to then remain as their celebrity hero identity once they had appeared through the dry smoke door. After the show they all went home with the identity that they were born with. 

It is a tragic reality that so many people spend much of their lives wanting to be someone else.

Sometimes it isn’t so much that they want to be a famous celebrity. Perhaps they simply admire a colleague at work because they seem to enjoy career success in all they do. Or they covet the financial stability of their neighbour and would swap places with them for anything. Others yearn to have the good looks of their friends who evidently have no problem finding a happy ever after partner. And there are those who resent their own character with its apparent inability to fit in and make friends when others by nature light up every room that they enter! ​One of the more unusual phobias that some folk are challenged with in their life is catoptrophobia.

Catoptrophobia is the fear of mirrors. Not so much the physical mirror itself but the reflection that the mirror provides.

What many folk don’t realise is that we are all mirrors that give out a reflection. The bible tells us that we have been made in the image of God. What does it mean by that? After all God doesn’t have a physical substance. Although we talk of God “seeing” what we do and “hearing” what we say God doesn’t have physical eyes or ears. The bible tells us that God is a Spirit. Being a Spirit doesn’t make God any less of a person. In fact one could argue that having physical substances such as arms and legs and teeth isn’t what makes us the people we are. So how are we physical creatures made in the image of God Who has no physical form? Simply put it means that, unlike the animal kingdom, we were made with the ability to think rationally, as God does; to feel emotionally, as God does; to make intelligent choices, as God does; to know the difference between moral right and wrong, as God does. In other words we were created in the image of God to be like God – to reflect all the marvellous characteristics of Who God is.​

I remember moving house a few years ago and we had a large lounge mirror. Moving the mirror was always going to be a challenge because it was heavy and, of course, fragile. This was not a task we would entrust to our children who were young at the time! Instead we took the greatest of care to move it safely ourselves. However, with all the precautions in place the mirror still got dropped and three cracks spread across the surface of the mirror so that whenever we looked in the mirror our reflections became distorted.

The bible tells us that God, in His extravagant goodness, created man and woman in pristine condition. God endowed his creation with remarkable characteristics that reflected His own – love, joy, friendship, creativity, communication, morality amongst many others. And all of these characteristics were provided without flaw. God looked at His creation and pronounced it Very Good. But that creation wasn’t simply there to reflect God’s character but to then return worship to God alone. The life of all men, women, boys, and girls was designed to be a lifestyle marked by worship to God.

But man chose to break that reflection by going his own way and living a lifestyle that was a shrine of worship to himself.

The image in which he had been created wasn’t lost but it was broken. Whenever we looked into that mirror that got broken in our house move we no longer saw a true likeness but a fragmented image ourselves and we had fun making all sorts of weird faces. ​Fragmented is an accurate and sad way to describe society. We see this at an international level when nations goes to war against nation. We see it on our streets when we hear of dreadful reports of knife crime. We see it in our own families when marriages break up or brothers and sisters become estranged from each other or from their parents. Relationships that started out full of hope, that started out as a perfect reflection of love and kindness and consideration and selflessness disintegrate into mistrust, impatience, selfishness, and, tragically, sometime hate. Lovers become haters. All that is left is a broken reflection of past good memories. ​This is not how God intended things to be.​

One of the biggest industries in the West today is that of self help therapy. It is a noble cause. One that seeks to help folk who live under a cloud or low self esteem, those who have had a life of being told by others how rubbish and worthless they are, poor souls who live from day to day hating who they are and how they are. It is truly heart breaking.

Yet whilst this industry of self help aid provides a welcome fix it can never, and never does, go the heart of the matter.

I recall a time when I was cleaning out an old house for someone and there was terrible black mould in the kitchen. In removing the black mould I later developed severe lung scarring and had to go on emergency ventilators. The doctor was quick to diagnose the problem and saved me from what could have turned out to be a very frightening situation. However, imagine my dismay if the doctor had said to me “Steve I can see that you are struggling to breathe and I suggest the best course of treatment is to take up painting”. Or “Steve I can tell that something is vexing you and perhaps you should join a bowling club and hopefully you will better soon.” Of course there is nothing wrong with painting or bowling but they would have been hopeless solutions in remedying my lung condition.

And so it is that whilst many self help therapies are beneficial, ultimately they can never address the core problem – and that is that all of us have had our image of God in us broken. We no longer reflect God. And therefore we no longer reflect life as it should be. Because God is life.

God could have left us to our self help manuals. And perhaps we could have managed quite well. But God didn’t plan for us to just manage. Society has woken up to the reality of mental illness in the past few years. No longer a stigma or considered a medical myth mental illness, it is a recognised condition where men and women and boys and girls who, in every other respect, may be entirely confident and capable but in the privacy of their own minds they suffer the torment of anxiety and panic attacks and that never ending foreboding sense of worthlessness. Eventually the ability to manage crumbles. And then the breakdowns set in. ​

The bible says in Psalm 46 that God is an ever present help in time of trouble.

When we feel alone and isolated, perhaps deserted by even our closest family members, God is the God who sticks closer than a brother.

And He does this through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came, not because He had lost mankind, but because mankind had lost Him. And in losing Jesus we all lose our connection to the one true reality in our life.

Jesus alone brings emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual reality and stability.

Jesus came to show us what God is like and what we are like. The picture of God is amazing. Of us not so good – because of the sin that has separated us from God and broken that image – that reflection.

Jesus lived a perfect life and died a perfect death to deal with, absorb, all the pain, the hate, the disintegration, that separates us from God, caused by our choice to go our own way and rejecting God’s perfect way. In coming to Jesus and having our lives renewed in Him by acknowledging our need of Him and repenting of our life of going our own way against God that image is restored. In doing so our lives don’t become a bed of roses. God doesn’t take us out of our situations. He does something better: He joins us in our situations and enables us to endure even the worst of circumstances, whilst making us like Him again at the same time.

People loved the programme Stars In Their Eyes. It was fun and harmless escapism for a short while. But the reality is that most people want to escape for more than a short while. They go through their whole life wanting to be somebody, or something else.

But whilst they spend all their time wanting to be someone else they are robbing the world of the wonder of being who they are. Who God made them to be.

Psalm 3 says that God is our glory and the lifter of our heads. With Jesus in our lives we can lift our heads high. We can celebrate who we are. We don’t need to go through life wanting to have stars in our eyes because with Jesus we can go through this life, and into eternity, having the Son in our heart.​